Celebration of Universal Brotherhood
Organiser   17-Sep-2018
Despite all efforts to derail or spread negative contours about the World Hindu Congress, 2018, the mega event at the historic city of Chicago not just took place with three plenary sessions and seven parallel conferences but celebrated the message of Universal Brotherhood propagated by Swami Vivekananda in the Western World
Prafulla Ketkar in Chicago
 
With a backdrop of a life-size statue of Swami Vivekananda, to the traditional clarion sound of the conch, the second World Hindu Congress attended by 2,500 Hindus from 60 countries had a resounding start on September 7 at the Westin Lombard York Town Center in Chicago.
“It is an opportune moment. We have stopped our descent. We are contemplating how to ascend. We are not an enslaved, downtrodden nation. People are in dire need of our ancient wisdom” — Mohan Bhagwat, RSS Sarsanghachalak 
 
 From left RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat, Acharya Dr Lokesh Muni, Swami Swaroopanand, Swami Purnatmanand, Prof SP Kothari, Shri Ashwin Adhin and Sadguru Dalip Singh inaugurating the World Hindu Congress in Chicago on September 7
 
Resounding Call for Unity
With luminaries from spiritual, educational, business, and political walks of life among the invited speakers, the message of Hindus coming together for the common good, with a sense of unity, reverberated the grand hall even as Swami Vivekananda’s historic speech to the World Parliament of Religions did 125 years ago at the nearby Art Institute of Chicago.
“Hindus must reform and be in the forefront in eliminating social and economic inequality, foster cooperation among those and view commerce as a means to furthering Hindu dharma for a better tomorrow”Prof SP Kothari, Chair of WHC
Shri Mohan Bhagwat, Sarsanghachalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh from Bharat, addressed the Congress on the theme drawn from the Mahabharat “Think collectively, Act Valiantly.” Shri Bhagwat highlighted the need for such action now and how Hindus should work together. “It is an opportune moment. We have stopped our descent. We are contemplating how to ascend. We are not an enslaved, downtrodden nation. People are in dire need of our ancient wisdom,” he said.

 
 
In Hindu Dharma even a pest is not killed, but controlled. “Hindus do not live to oppose anybody. We even allow the pests to live. There are people who may oppose us. You have to tackle them without harming them,” Shri Bhagwat said. “Our universal values, now called Hindu values, lead to the welfare of the individual, the society, nature and the environment. It is the duty of the Hindus to remind these universal values to the world from time to time. This duty of dharma to human beings should be performed till the world exists and thus, Hindu dharma will also exist till the world exists. Hindus know the basic values, but have forgotten to practice them,” he added.
“Words like peace, harmony and spirituality do not appeal to ordinary people easily, and they have to be framed in right perspective terms so that they get established in people’s mind”Ashwin Adhin, Vice-president of Republic
Stressing the need for unity, Shri Bhagwat said when the RSS work started in 1925 and people were told about the significance of Hindu unity, they used to reply that ‘lion does not move around in herd. While cautioning such people, he remarked that such people forget the fact that if a lion is alone, a group of wild dogs can invade and destroy the lion. “We want to make the world better. We have no aspiration of dominance. Our influence is not a result of conquest or colonisation.”

 
 
Shri Bhagwat said a sense of idealism is good and described himself not as “anti-modern,” but as “pro-future.” He sought to describe Hindu dharma as “ancient and post-modern at the same time.” The Hindu society will prosper only if it works as a society, he said.
“As a Hindu, it pains me deeply to see how ignorance and half knowledge are trying to destroy one of the oldest, world’s most peaceful religion” Anupam Kher, noted film actor
One of the key values to bring the whole world into a team is to have controlled ego and learn to accept the consensus. For example, Sri Krishna and Yudhishthira never contradicted each other, Shri Bhagwat said. In this context, he alluded to the war and politics in the Hindu epic Mahabharat and said politics could not be conducted like a meditation session, and it should be politics. “To work together, we have to accept the consensus. We should learn to work together, but separately. For that, we need to have a direction but with safe distance,” he said. He urged the conference attendees to discuss and evolve a methodology to implement the idea of working collectively, “Think Collectively, Act Valiantly.”
 
Clear Conviction
Prof SP Kothari, chair of WHC, said he and many speakers attending the conference received calls and petitions from organisations and individuals to withdraw from the Congress on the ground WHC or some of its organisers are “socially and religiously divisive.” “I categorically reject this supposition,” he said. “I urge them to listen to my talk and reflect on whether it is tainted with hate. I have chosen to disregard those petitions as originating from a lack of complete understanding of the World Hindu Congress.” He said he welcomed diversity and evolution of thought and believed that two areas will benefit from reform. Women have not fared well, and this is a universal problem. There is a large chasm, and women’s talents haven't been harnessed. Focus on education is the other area requiring reform.
 
 
The three goals of WHC are “enlighten, reform and advance.” WHC brings enlightenment throughout the world about the Hindu community through spirituality, harmony and inclusiveness, he said. Hindus must reform and be in the forefront in eliminating social and economic inequality, foster cooperation among those with ideas and resources, and view commerce as a means to furthering Hindu dharma for a better tomorrow.
 
Vice-president of Republic of Suriname Ashwin Adhin in his address said: “We, as Hindus, never forsake our mission. Hindus have always been the missionaries of renunciation and service.” Words like peace, harmony and spirituality do not appeal to ordinary people easily, and they have to be framed in right perspective terms so that they get established in people’s mind, Adhin said. “Much change is needed, and we need action,” he said and recalled Swami Vivekananda’s stirring call, “Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached.”

 
 
Addressing the “confluence of Hindu leadership who have come to connect, share ideas, inspire one another and impact the common good” WHC coordinator Dr Abhaya Asthana stated that “we have gathered to reaffirm the same message of diversity, cooperation and universal acceptance” uttered by Swami Vivekananda 125 years ago.
WHC, he stated is not an event, it is a community movement. It seeks to encourage Hindus around the world to ascend to the highest levels of excellence. This Congress, he stated, was important so we “may graduate from individual success to collective success.”
“The Congress is an opportunity to shape the dialogue about Hindus going forward and change the perceptions of Hindus as very positive change makers wherever they may be in the world” Raju Reddy, technology entrepreneur
As a people, we must once again create and share the wealth, provide affordable quality education, promote a robust Hindu presence in media, cultivate future Hindu leaders, tap the unique strengths of Hindu women and encourage Hindu organisations to work together. It is also the only way to increase our sphere of influence and have a positive societal impact globally. This landmark event, he said, will help Hindus around the globe to introspect and deliberate the challenges and issues facing Hindus globally and to seek tangible solutions for the progress and prosperity of Hindus.
 
Swami Vigyananand ji felicitating Shri M Venkaiah Naidu, Vice President of India 
 
Stating that it was a big achievement for a poor Kashmiri Hindu boy to be speaking at the event, award-winning actor Anupam Kher saluted “our country Bharat…a place that has been home to all cultures, religions and faiths.” Hindu Dharma is a way of life, he added, and one becomes a Hindu by living like one. Tolerance was the centrepiece of Vivekananda’s message. He stated that despite being refugees in their own country, Kashmiri Pandits have displayed tolerance for 28 years like nobody ever has. “My roots are steeped in Hinduism. I refuse to be defined by other people’s fears. My Hindu teachings and life’s experiences have taught me that there is time for peace and there is time for war. I use war as a metaphor; platforms like this from which I can speak to the world, remind me of my karmic duty. I draw inspiration from Swami Vivekananda to shine a light on all of us gathered here and beyond. As a Hindu, it pains me deeply to see how ignorance and half knowledge are trying to destroy one of the oldest, world’s most peaceful religion”, Shri Anupam Kher said.
 
Vice Chair Raju Reddy described the Congress as an extraordinary opportunity to shape the dialogue about Hindus going forward and change the perceptions of Hindus as very positive change makers wherever they may be in the world.
 
 
Reddy, a technology entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, said, Hindu Americans or more broadly Indo Americans today are known as great doctors, academicians, engineers and entrepreneurs, generally successful in different walks of life and their per capita income is twice the national average here in America. It is a point of pride, but it also means we have the capacity to make a positive difference around the world.
“Hinduism is a way of life and share and care is the core of Hindu philosophy. ...The philosophy of tolerance and mutual acceptance of all religions is an essential part of the timeless, eternal, holistic, integrated and universal worldview of Hindu Dharma”Shri M Venkaiah Naidu, Vice President of India
Conference host Dr Shamkant Sheth spoke of the two years of hard work that went into bringing together the WHC and of the opportunity to connect, inspire and learn to strengthen the global Hindu community in these productive three days of discussion in the World Hindu Congress. This landmark event, he said, will help Hindus around the globe to introspect and deliberate the challenges and issues facing Hindus globally and to seek tangible solutions for progress and prosperity of Hindus.
Honouring the Hindu Organisations
In the inaugural session, the Congress recognised four organisations for their outstanding contributions in the spread of Hindu philosophy. The Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) was honoured for its extreme visual idealism around the world as it built architecturally beautiful Mandirs. Chinmaya Mission for explaining the essence of the Gita, Geeta Press Gorakhpur for making sacred Hindu literature easily accessible and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) for spreading the message of Gita was also honoured.
 
 
The session began with a moment of silence in memory of the late Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and the late Nobel Laureate V.S. Naipaul. After the inaugural session, the delegates and participants dispersed in the seven parallel sessions namely, youth, media, economy, women, education, political and Hindu organisations.
 
Seven conferences and four plenary sessions over the course of three days highlighted issues facing Hindus. The Political Conference suggested the need for a permanent secretariat in the US or UK for the cause of Hindu rights around the globe, asserting a strong political voice especially in countries like the Caribbean, Fiji and the African countries, and developing young political leaders.
Hindu Political Conference: Call for a Permanent Secretariate for Hindu Rights
The Hindu Political Conference, a subset of the World Hindu Congress 2018, held in Chicago from September 7 to 9 suggested the need for a permanent secretariat in the US or UK for the cause of Hindu rights around the globe. It was also decided to recruit a group of eminent persons to accomplish this task. The political conference highlighted the importance of asserting a strong political voice especially in countries like the Caribbean, Fiji and the African countries, and developing young political leaders. A dynamic digital database of all political leaders by country is to be developed.
 
 
To create awareness about atrocities committed against Hindus around the world, speak out against biased portrayals of Hindus, freeing temples from government control, making writing contemporary and relevant to the present generation, finding new ways to open trade and skill development, an Angel Investor group for women entrepreneurs and a global Hindu Women Business directory, a strategy for developing Hindu scholarship in religious studies were some of the recommendations of the conferences.

 
Hindu worldwide should become more visible as positive change makers in their respective countries they call home, wherever they may be today, is the main consensus emerging from World Hindu Congress 2018, Dr Abhaya Asthana, convener of the conference said at the concluding session on Sept 9.

 
Hindu Resurgence
Delegates to the World Hindu Congress being held in Chicago received a symbolic sweet box in their welcome packet, which became a talking point to clarify the common perception that Hindu society is not united. Containing two sweet ladoos – one hard and one soft – the surprise delicacies were doled out to drive home an important point. In a panel discussion on Collective Efforts for Hindu Resurgence, the soft ladoo represented the status of Hindus today, in that they may be easily broken and swallowed. The future vision for Hindu society should be like hard labour: strongly bonded.

Hindu Youth Conference: Leverage the Youth Skills for Hindu Cause 

The youth power is not just strength for Bharat but the entire Hindu community all over the world. Hindu youth should leverage their social media skills to create awareness about atrocities committed against Hindus around the world; speak out against biased portrayals of Hindus; educate emerging politicians on the effective use of media; and identify the key roadblocks to Hindu youth in proudly embracing their Hindu identity were some of the key points to emerge from the youth conference. The conference has decided to establish at least 20 internships for youth who aspire to enter politics.
 
The second plenary session was moderated by RSS Sahsarkaryavah Shri Dattatreya Hosabale. Before calling the panellists representing various organisations working for the Hindu Dharma, Shri Hosabale remarked that ‘Hindus have never become a headache in any part of the world because of the cultural heritage they carried with them’. Swami Poornatmananda of Bharat Seva Ashram Sangh said all Hindus should unite to achieve resurgence. Hindu religious teachings are for humanity. As such, schools and colleges in Bharat should be opened to impart Hindu teachings.
 
Chinmaya Mission Spiritual Head Swami Swaroopanand said one need not merely state, “I am a proud Hindu. We are proud Hindus.” On the resurgence of Hinduism, he proclaimed that “everything begins at home. When family breaks down, culture breaks down, and life of disharmony follows. We have to convert Hindus to Hinduism.”
Hindu Organisational Conference 
Freeing temples from the control of the government, an operational mechanism to reach out to unreached areas, and how Hindu activism in the US can be replicated elsewhere were the outcomes of the Hindu organisational conference. Hindu Media Conference
The media conference called for activist media entrepreneurs who are not profit driven and making writing contemporary, ‘cool’ and relevant to the present generation with a Hindu perspective. From the fake narrative and fake news, technology and media, the changing media economics and Projecting Hindus in popular media like cinema, all aspects of media were discussed and deliberated in five sessions. The upcoming movie by Radha Bharadwaj was called SPACE MOMs announced by famous columnist and attorney David B Cohen and promised that it would celebrate Bharat’s women and diversity and shatter the stereotypes about the women in Bharat. Hindu Economic
 
Conference 
 
Finding new ways to open trade, further regulatory reforms in Bharat, skill development, building ecosystems, providing capital to startups and mentoring programmes for young entrepreneurs were the recommendations of the economic conference. Hindu
 
Women Conference
Entrepreneur and Grammy-nominated artist Chandrika Tandon shared her insights at the women’s conference. A short-term goal was to conduct value based workshops, seminars and symposiums for young girls. Long-term goals were an Angel Investor group for women entrepreneurs and a global Hindu Women Business directory. Hindu
Education Conference
 
A strategy for developing scholarship in religious studies and a strong international network of Hindu scholars, and liberalising education from government control while maintaining quality were the outcomes of the Education conference.
 
 
He went on to say that “the spirit of unity does not mean all should be the same. In the midst of diversity, we must have a common goal of dedication.” We have to reform the education system that inculcates Hindu culture and religion. We have to re-discover the way the rishis taught the disciples in the ancient gurukul system.
 
Swami Paramatmananda, secretary general of Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha said Hindus should think collectively not only for its resurgence but for the resurgence of the whole world. Of special note were the ecological problems of the world. Further, society has a “relationship problem,” where one person is unable to relate to the life of another person. “God did not create the world for man’s consumption. The responsibility lies on Hindus to protect the ecology,” he said.
 
Sadguru Dalip Singh from Namdari Panth told the Congress that Hindus and Sikhs can never be separated. The Guru Granth Saheb says that Sikhs should remain Hindus. He urged the Hindus to stop using English to describe India and instead call it Bharat and that Hindus who know Hindi should always speak in Hindi. He also decried those who habitually blamed their motherland. Instead, one should find what is good in India and espouse it. He also visualised a Bharatiya organisation encompassing Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists.
The Story Telling Posters
There were fifty-six posters depicting inspirational stories, and community service projects were on display. The poster on Sewa International’s “Toilet and hygiene project for the Girl Child,” “Pakistani-Hindu - A genocide forgotten,” and a poster by Gurukula.com were chosen as three best posters.
 
 
Madhu Pandit Dasa, chairperson of Akshaya Patra Foundation, ISKCON, Bangalore, said the different denominations of Hinduism are a strength rather than a weakness. There are common grounding principles in these denominations. He drew attention to the declining birth rate among Hindus in India as an aftermath of the one-child family planning programme promoted by the Indian government. Other faiths don’t buy into this programme and their population is not declining, he said. “Take pride in having more children,” he concluded.
 
Earlier, ahead of the panel discussion, Congressman Raja Krishnamurthy (D-IL) addressed the World Hindu Congress. He said “Some of my friends and constituents were very concerned about my presence here today. I decided I had to be here because I wanted to reaffirm the highest and only form of Hinduism that I’ve ever known and been taught – namely one that welcomes all people, embraces all people, accepts all people regardless of their faith, including all my constituents.” “In short, I reaffirm the teachings of Swami Vivekananda. It is because of his legacy of equality and pluralism that I stand before you as a Hindu, as an American and a United States Congressman.”
The organisers announced that the third World Hindu Conference will be held at Bangkok, Thailand, from November 4 to 6, 2022. The conference theme will be “Victory of Dharma, not Adharma.”
He also spoke about the division and despair in the world and called for the need to embrace ahimsa – the concept of non-violence so that there is no place for prejudice, violence or hate, nowhere in the world. We must teach our children tolerance and love, diversity and inclusion which Hinduism embodies, he said.
 
Dream for the Future
Shri Mohandas Pai, Dr Sonal Mansingh and Dr R Nagaswamy shared the dais for the third plenary session on the Hindu Society: Glory of the Past, Pain of Present and Dream for Future. Prof. Subhash Kak moderated the session. “We have a lot to be proud of,” he said and highlighted the many inventions and scientific theories of today that have already been written about in ancient Hindu literary works such as the significance of the number 108. The true father of computer science should be Panini for his 4000 rules of Sanskrit language, he said, and the inventor of quantum mechanics is said to have said that the concept came to him from the Upanishads.
The Story Telling Posters
There were fifty-six posters depicting inspirational stories, and community service projects were on display. The poster on Sewa International’s “Toilet and hygiene project for the Girl Child,” “Pakistani-Hindu - A genocide forgotten,” and a poster by Gurukula.com were chosen as three best posters.
 
 
Renowned classical dancer Dr Sonal Mansingh spoke about “Kala, Sanskriti and Vidya” and how one is always seeking eternal life in this ephemeral life. This can be achieved by nritya, which is not just dancing. Every breath you take is a dance, the blood flowing in your veins is a dance, the heartbeat is taal. Even the word Bharat has music in it – as Bha means bhāva, Ra means rāga and ta means taal.
 
Bharat’s economy is $2.6 trillion said Mohandas Pai, chairperson of Board of Manipal Global, and is the third largest economy in the world, following China and the US. Bharat will become a $10 trillion economy by 2030. Everyone should have the basic necessities of life like food, shelter, electricity, water and healthcare. These problems will be solved by 2030. We need to invest in education, fund political parties through checks and demand honesty from our politicians, he said.
 
Dr R. Nagaswamy, historian and archaeologist from Tamil Nadu, spoke about Manu Dharma, which is derived from the Vedas. This was the first constitution and law code established 3500 years ago, he said.
 
Prominent Houstonian, Col. Raj Bhalla said “Being a Sikh, 87 years old, I always had a personal belief that Sikhs are part of Hindus. The World Hindu Congress further enlightened me and strengthened my conviction. My earnest desire is, in Bharat, Sanskrit should be taught to children at a very young age, so they learn about Vedic, Spiritual and Scientific knowledge that Hindus gave to the world 5000 years ago - a rightful matter of pride.”
 
#WHC2018
 
In Numbers
2500 Delegates
220 Speakers
60 Countries
42 Sessions
 
Present Hinduism in the Best and Comprehensive form Bharat’s Vice President Shri Venkaiah Naidu renewed Swami Vivekananda’s message to the World Parliament of Religions in 1893 and appealed to the second World Hindu Congress delegates to follow the ideals of the great saint of Bharat. He was delivering the keynote address at the concluding session of the Congress, on the eve of the 125th anniversary of the Hindu monk’s exposition of Hindu Dharma to the western world in Chicago on September 9.
 
Swami Vivekananda was the embodiment of Hindu culture. “Let us rededicate ourselves to the thoughts (of Vivekananda) for the greatness of mankind,” he said.
 
He peppered his speech with generous Sanskrit and Telugu quotes. He told the gathering though he was not in politics anymore, he was glad to come to Chicago and felt it was his duty to attend the great event happening in the name of Swami Vivekananda. He extensively referred to Swami Vivekananda’s epoch-making address, which described Hindu philosophy as “discovering of spiritual wellsprings” that have sustained the world for many centuries. The philosophy of tolerance and mutual acceptance of all religions was an essential part of the timeless, eternal, holistic, integrated and universal worldview of Hindu Dharma.
 
Shri Naidu reiterated that “Hinduism is a way of life and share and care is the core of Hindu philosophy.” He elaborated on some of the essential elements of Hindu Dharma, namely the breadth of its vision in treating the world as one family, tolerance and acceptance of plurality, unity in diversity, and that truth is one though wise men describe it in different ways. He especially highlighted the place of women in Hindu society and discredited the view that women’s role is at home. All rivers in Bharat have been named after women, and the country itself is called motherland, he said.
The organisers announced that the third World Hindu Conference will be held at Bangkok, Thailand, from November 4 to 6, 2022. The conference theme will be “Victory of Dharma, not Adharma.
 
The way women are treated is a thermometer to gauge the nation, Shri Naidu said. As vice-president, he had visited 56 universities and attended 32 convocations. He has been presenting awards to graduates earning gold medals. “Over 65 per cent of the gold medalists are women,” he said to resounding applause from the audience. He subtly alluded to the term “Congress” and said that Congress meant a platform to present ideas, and wasn’t just a reference to Bharat’s Congress Party.
 
Mahatma Gandhi had said “disband the Congress; back to the villages,” he said. He did not want to deal with the political part but added that “Rama Rajya is not complete without grama Rajya,” meaning rejuvenation and celebration of rural Bharat, with an emphasis on agriculture and farming. That is a necessary tool to bridge the urban-rural divide, he said.
 
One should not condemn or appease other religions for the sake of votes, he noted. Compassion, service, charity, gender equality, protection of the environment and such noble aspects are key ingredients of Hindu philosophy, and they are more relevant today than ever before, he said. True nationalism is in the preservation of Bharat’s invaluable heritage, though some may consider the term Hindu as undesirable or untouchable. In this context, Naidu said, “We should guard against aberrations in Hinduism.”
 
Shri Naidu brought the Hindu tradition of respecting one’s mother to the forefront and added that we should respect our motherland. Then, the guru or teachers deserved respect. “Google can never replace a guru,” he said in a lighter vein. Mother-tongue is part of one’s culture, and everyone should preserve their respective mother-tongue while learning as many other languages as possible, he said.
 
Hindu worldwide should become more visible as positive change makers in their respective countries they call home, wherever they may be today, is the main consensus emerging from World Hindu Congress 2018, Dr Abhaya Asthana, convener of the conference, said at the concluding session on September 9.
 
The organisers announced that the third World Hindu Conference will be held at Bangkok, Thailand, from November 4 to 6, 2022. The conference theme will be “Victory of Dharma, not Adharma.”